OCUR

The more I use WMP secure Internet streaming, the more impressed I become. The empowering technology is obviously very slick and smart. I discovered that the bit rate for streaming is adaptive and adjusts to your connection speed. While I don’t have any technical details or white papers that explain the inner workings, I sense that on the host end, the connection type and speed is auto detected and the bit rate set accordingly.

So far, I’ve determined that on a host that is hard wired to my home router, the bit rate is 2000 and if the host is wireless 802.11n, the rate is 1200. Note that I am streaming no DRM’d HD content recorded using a Digital Cable Tuner and a CableCard. The client was my ASUS EeePC netbook, connected via 802.11n wireless.  This means that most broadband users should have a wonderful experience. Comcast’s flagship speed is 12/2, so certainly the experience will be a good one for Comcast customers, especially considering that most will have standard definition Media Center recordings. (Disclaimer, I work for Comcast and this does not in any way represent any official statement or endorsement.). Given my own experience with these HD recordings, anyone streaming HD recordings or HD Videos will have a great experience as well. I’m not easily impressed, but this stuff is amazing.

The bit rate is shown in the upper left corner of Windows Media Player when you first start streaming a TV Show.

Here are some screen captures showing this data.

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None of the info I’d see on the web mentioned much about the ability to stream Recorded TV in Windows 7 over the Internet as part of the just revealed Windows 7 Windows Media Player Internet Streaming function added to the release candidate for Windows 7. I decided to try it for myself.

First, this is secure streaming between computers I own. The provider available for the RC is Windows Live, and any computer used as either the host or the client MUST be associated with your Windows Live ID (the same one on each computer). You’ll need to set permissions on the host machine within Windows Media Player, as well.

I decided to try streaming an episode of Stargate Atlantis recorded in High Def from the SciFi channel as a first test. I about fell over because I didn’t expect it to work at all and had guessed that if I could get it to work, it would be glitchy and unwatchable. Wrong. While the content is downsampled, I’d watch it in a heartbeat wile travelling.

Incredible to me, the client I was using was an Asus EeeePC also running build 7100 W7.

While I’m no Steven Spielberg, I managed to capture a bit of this experience:

x280n_sm HP was kind enough to send me an early near production version of their soon to be released (July 31) MediaSmart Connect Home Theater component. I’ve had a few minutes to take a VERY quick look and the first impression is: It’s great!

Nice looking hardware, piano black finish (production units will have a neat Zen imprint) with a solid heft/feel. Connections for component and HDMI (720p and 1080i supported on both). An HDMI cable is included (nice touch). Audio jacks include RCA stereo (analog) and Optical Digital (SPDIF). No Coax digital, but that suits me just fine. I ranted some about the lack of Optical output on the ”competing” (and I use that term loosely) Linksys DMA-2100.

802.11a/b/g/n (Draft 2.0n) wireless (and 10/100 Ethernet) connect this device to your home network. The device sports USB ports front and rear and includes a HP Pocket Media Drive Bay (the 21st century version of sneaker net storage used to move your digital “stuff” between computers and devices).

If you are looking at size and aesthetics, this image shows the sizes of the x280n, the Linksys DMA-2200 (the 2100 is even smaller and as I blogged, chintzy in feel and cheap looking), the D-Link theater component size DSM-750, and an Xbox 360. For me, it is a draw between the component sized D-Link which, in the real world would fit nicely on the rack that holds my home theater receiver and the HP x280n which would fit nicely and discreetly on top of or under the TV. Top to bottom: HP MediaSmart x280n, Linksys DMA-2200, D-Link DSM-750, Xbox 360.

extenders by size

HP includes a really nice handheld remote. It’s certainly the best of the remotes offered with any of the extenders I’ve seen. It’s backlit (which for me is a must in a darkened room). Setting up the x280n was menu driven and simple. It found several of my 2.4GHz  “N” networks (I’m not certain it is seeing 5GHz N yet, more to come). I associated it, entered the WPA2-PSK passphrase and it was off and running. The first thing it did was check for new firmware. Finding a newer version, it downloaded and applied the newer firmware. After a reboot, it was back up and ready for action.

I elected to set it up as a Media Center Extender first and verify that my OCUR/DCT high def streaming was good to go. No problem there. Since I can do MCX setups in my sleep, and at the speed of light, I was able to quickly get through setup and watch Live and Recorded HD TV.

Exploring the HP MediaSmart interface:

I had a short amount of time to explore HP’s MediaSmart proprietary interface for Media Sharing. I used Windows Media Sharing and UPnP streaming from a server. I have yet to setup HP’s own MediaSmart gateway software, but I’ll get to that. HP has developed a slick and intuitive interface which can be used with Windows XP, Vista, and most likely will be future proof, at least for a while. I like the HP interface and functionality slightly more than D-Link’s MediaLounge interface. Linksys has no such secondary interface. I was easily able to start playing some music and access my photos and play a slide show. This works almost exactly the same way it does on the Media Center Extender interface. All in all, in my first look, a nice, user friendly, solid piece of hardware with great functionality.

hp interface

photo_interface

 

I’ll be updating this post as time permits as I continue to explore and experiment.

I’ve just setup a production DSM-750 Medialounge Media Center Extender. This new extender streams everything over Wireless 802.11n Draft 2.0 (using a DGL-4500 in 5GHz mode) including High Definition Live and Recorded TV from a Vista Ultimate x64 box with two DCT (OCUR) tuners.

Some unboxing and setup images can be found at one of my websites.

Out of the box, the DSM-750 blows the dinky Linksys DMA 2100 out of the water. Solid construction and a nice looking peripheral that doesn’t look like cheap plastic in my living room. The DMA 2100 has no optical SPDIF (RCA flavor digital SPDIF only) and worse, does not see Atheros based 802.11 Draft 2.0 N SSID’s and probably some other brands. The DMA 2100 only has two antennae. D-Link has all the ports and three antennae, which really helps with wireless connectivity .

dsm750003

D-Link integrates network setup with Extender setup and it is a real easy task to get up and running. While I admit to having had experience with a beta engineering sample, the engineering sample was wired only without the 802.11n dual band capability. I was really impressed with how well it worked and how integrated it was. D-Link has tons of experience with something like 6-7 previous versions in the Medialounge wireless media player line. This experience shows.

The Linksys takes forever to connect to the host Vista machine while the D-Link connects seamlessly and far more rapidly.

In my opinion, if you have a choice between the Linksys DMA 2100 and the D-Link DSM-750, the D-Link is well worth the wait. Linksys was first to market, but the race is not always to the swiftest.

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